June 9, 2014 at 3:04 PM ET
It's a bird! It's a plane! No, wait — it's Millie the mountain-climbing cat!
Millie and Craig Armstrong, 37, of Salt Lake City have been inseparable ever since Armstrong adopted the furry feline as a tiny kitten. It didn't take Armstrong long to realize he could bring Millie with him on climbing trips. He first wrote about it on backcountry.com, where he works as an email marketer.
"This is my first cat," he told TODAY.com. "For the last two years everything I owned fit in plastic bins in the back of my truck. I had one pair of jeans and seven T-shirts. What I'm saying is, I enjoy freedoms. I don't like things that weigh me down or limit my movement, so I always knew I'd get a cat one day and not a dog."
After taking Millie on some simple climbs, he and a friend started going on "catting trips."
"I really just brought her as a companion," Armstrong said. "Turns out, she just loves climbing things. Also turn out, I have a friend that loves taking his cat places. So, we've gone on some trips just to do climbs with the cats. Catting trips, if you will."
The "catting trips" are a way to climb casually with their felines. "When you go on a hard-core climbing trip, it is for you," he said. "It is a climbing trip." "Catting trips," on the other hand, are at a more casual pace that the cats can enjoy without having to worry too much about falling or getting injured.
Armstrong said he started climbing after speaking with a pretty woman at work who liked to climb. Although he did not fall in love with the co-worker in question, he did fall in love with climbing. "It is the moment when you meet fear and you either cave into it or overcome it," he said of his love of climbing and bouldering. "Those moments when you overcome it, you feel really good about it and it takes you to very beautiful places."
Taking the cat along with him has made Armstrong slow down and relax. "You experience nature at a different pace," he said. "The human agenda is not on the kitty's mind. I have to pay attention to her. It's just fun. You see things in nature otherwise you would have not seen. It is a pretty good time."
While out in the rugged terrain, Armstrong said he rarely worries about Millie climbing ability. Instead, he finds himself focusing on other factors in nature.
"She literally climbs up trees and up rocks," he said. "It is up to me to protect her — she isn't a wild animal. (Cats) will wander off, they'll get destroyed by a great horned owl, coyote, fox or who knows what. It's rad to get them out, but in doing so, you have to save them too."
Their next big adventure will be the West Slabs of Mount Olympus in the Salt Lake Valley. "(I'm) pretty sure she can handle it," he said. "I want her to see as much of the world as I get to. And it's fun having her around."
You can follow the adventures of Millie and Craig on his Instagram.